By LOHR McKINSTRY
PORT HENRY -- It may be that Champ, the Lake Champlain monster, is getting more reclusive.
A summer expedition to find the mysterious creature brought a dozen participants and sophisticated tracking equipment but didn't find anything.
Another expedition will be held next summer, said organizer Ruby Anderson of Naugatuck, Conn.
"We have learned some important things through Champ Expedition 2008 -- like make sure you have backup equipment in case of problems with cameras (and) cell phones."
The group will once again be headquartered at Button Bay State Park and Campground near Vergennes, Vt., she said.
"We chose this location because there have been several sightings of Champ at Button Bay. Our own sighting of Champ in 2007 also took place in Button Bay. All evidence seems to indicate a family group of Champtany in the Button Bay area."
"Champtany" is the designation Champ Quest Director Dennis Hall gave to Champ several years ago.
"It was my own sighting that got me researching and studying Champ," Anderson said.
"Myself and my daughter, Precious, and her friend, Tori, had a Champ sighting at Button Bay State Park on July 17, 2007.
"My brother, Gary, also had a sighting of a baby Champ at Button Bay State Park back in 2001."
Many Champ sightings have been either in Button Bay on the Vermont side or in Bulwagga Bay off Port Henry. Researchers have offered theories that Champ could be anything from a plesiosaur to a large sturgeon. Most agree there would have to be a breeding colony of the creatures in the lake for it survive over the years.
Anderson described the 2007 sighting at Button Bay.
"(We) were sitting on the cliffs a short ways from the Nature Center at Button Bay State Park. We saw what looked like a large school of fish some distance out that was moving toward us.
"Shortly after, we saw a large, dark-colored animal with three to four humps, around 30 feet long, come to the surface. It moved across in front of us, then turned and went back out then turned right and continued across the lake for some distance before it headed back out into deeper water and submerging."
She said the sighting was at about 12:15 in the afternoon.
"I am fairly convinced that there was a large school of fish, and the animal was probably feeding on them. I was later told an ex-Marine had been there on vacation and had also seen and described the same animal.
"During our 2008 expedition, I saw nothing even remotely resembling the animal we saw in 2007."
This year, Anderson organized an expedition at the end of July, and participants camped at Button Bay for a week.
"We had teams by the lake in shifts equipped with a high-speed video recorder with zoom lens and infrared for evening hours. We were using decoys to try to lure Champ in closer to get better footage."
They're trying to be thorough with their search for Champ, she said.
"While our goal is to find proof of Champ, identifying things that could be mistaken for Champ is also important. It helps in sorting out reported sightings and identifying actual Champ sightings from misidentifications.
"I believe Champ does indeed exist, and I hope proof of Champ's existence will come in time."